October 18, 2021

The effects of COVID-19 have been frustrating for some, but for others it’s been agonizing and fearful, leaving them alone with the people who have hurt them the most.

“Survivors are struggling with their wellness like never before,” said Jessica St. Peter, the Public Education Manager at the Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC) located in downtown Kitchener.

“Isolation, social distancing, loss of employment, disruptions in routines, and increased anxiety, all create conditions where intimate partner sexual assault, other forms of sexual violence, and child sexual abuse are more common,” St. Peter said.

Since the pandemic, the SASC has seen an increase in the following areas:

2020-21 to 21-22 Fiscal:Increase Percentage
Individual Counselling
Past Clients Accessing Support
Open Support Group Access
Anti-Human Trafficking Program
Family Court Support Program
Public Education Program
Crisis Calls/Chats
Individual Counselling Wait List
13%
71%
628%
26%
51%
58%
4%
22%

This large 628% increase shows how more accessible it is for victims to reach out and get the help they need.

“Looking at that need for connection that people are seeking, in addition to support with their healing journey,” said St. Peter. “The virtual adaption also made it easier for some folks to join and participate.”

To accommodate all these increases, the SASC has introduced numerous additions to their website to further assist their clients. They have also doubled their capacity of respondents to their 24-Hour Support Line, where clients can connect easily and effectively as quickly as possible.

While most of their support programs have been pushed to an online environment, walk-ins are available depending on the severity of a client’s situation. These changes came into effect on March 16, 2020, and continue today.

“We continually invest in our own internal education and unpacking a privilege to address our intersexual lens and the importance of anti-racism, anti-oppression, and how we do our work,” said St. Peter. “We also have an online chat support option so those who don’t feel safe calling via phone or have the space to call can have more access.”

The SASC has also created multiple events to encourage women all over to talk about their experiences and bring their stories to life. These events include a Virtual Halloween Fun Run, a 5K run where women wear powerful costumes, and Take Back the Night, a night where women can feel empowered and share their stories with others in a similar situation.

Community members gather at Take back The Night event on Sept 16, 2021. Photo by Fayth Paul

“The Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region takes safety [Take Back the Night] very seriously,” said Sarah Wiley, the Violence Prevention Educator as SASC. “We have consulted with the Waterloo Region Police, and the Waterloo Region Public Health to determine the safest way to gather and to ensure that we are following all local and provincial regulations.”

The SASC strongly encourages those who need help to reach out. They can be reached by phone at 519-741-8633.

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